There will always be new collaborations between the Andy Warhol Foundation and a retailer is one of the most certain things in this world.
Backpack brand Herschel Supply has released its second collection. The collection features three of the most enduring symbols of pop music – bananas, cows, and blooming hibiscus flowers. The works adorn four silhouettes of the brand, which are already on sale.
Andy Warhol died in 1987, but since then his cultural fame has hardly diminished. He was smart about what mattered to people and synthesized those obsessions—from politicians and starlets to household items—into his practice of screen printing.
Commonplace images, like his signature colors, were reproduced to the point of disgust, somehow bypassing the kitsch. Andy Warhol began using flower motifs in 1964, taking an original image from a photo magazine.
Here, the collection uses its most famous iteration. They are flat and rich hot pinks, oranges, and blues; against a background of black and green grass thickets for a pleasant contrast.
“Andy Warhol – From A to B and Back,” a 2018 exhibition at the Whitney Museum of American Art and Warhol’s first comprehensive study in the US in about 30 years, combined flowers with “cow wallpaper [pink on yellow]”. The two walls of the gallery, pasted over with patterns, connected, creating an electrifying effect. Originally featured in his series The Cow (1966–76), the titular bovine was depicted as bubblegum pink on a radioactive yellow background.
According to the artist, the influential pop art dealer Ivan Karp pushed him to consider cows as his next subject. Andy Warhol printed the cows as individual prints in four color schemes —Pink Cow on Yellow Background (1966), Brown Cow with Blue Background (1971), Yellow Cow on Blue Background (1971), and Pink Cow on Purple Background (1976) —but most galleries preferred to cover them as wallpaper.
In 1966, for his first review of Warhol, Whitney decorated one of his walls with an engraving. The Leo Castelli Gallery followed suit. They opened a single room, decorated from floor to ceiling with a painting “Pink cow on a yellow background.”
However, neither the flower nor the cow can claim the cult status of their banana. Warhol created the image as the cover for The Velvet Underground’s debut album and Nico’s debut album in 1967. The original artwork allowed listeners to peel off the banana peel like a sticker, revealing the pale fleshy fruit underneath.
In his review of the album, Richard Goldstein of the Village Voice wrote, “The Velvets are an important band and this album has a lot of work behind that upright banana on the cover.” But given its current cult status, the album didn’t have much commercial success or immediate cultural impact.
Lou Reed even fired Warhol in response to the album’s lukewarm reception. However, interest in the album grew after Reid’s triumphant solo project. Today, the original tear-off sticker stampings are valuable collectibles and sell for over $20,000.